As boating accident attorneys, we know that one of the worst case scenarios anyone can experience is the sinking of their vessel. Even with the most knowledgeable crew on board, there are times when unforeseen circumstances can lead sailors to experience rough seas, unpredictable weather conditions, and other factors that can cause a boat to capsize and ultimately sink. However, there are certain things boaters can do to reduce the chances of being involved in this type of at-sea emergency.
By taking some simple safety precautions, sailors can prevent a serious boating accident. Here are five tips to help you avoid a capsizing tragedy.
- Properly install the drain plug before launching. When you pull the drain plug, water drains out of your boat. This is useful. However, when you forget to put the drain plug back in and start moving, water will flood your vessel. While this is a simple concept, the Coast Guard reports that even experienced boaters have made this “novice” mistake. Be sure that your drain plug is safety secured before resuming your course.
- Equip your vessel with navigational systems. Without the proper navigational systems, boaters can run into a slew of hazards that can cause their vessel to capsize, such as large rocks or reef systems. To avoid a capsizing boating accident, make sure that you are using up-to-date nautical charts before you head out into open waters.
- Understand nautical charts. Ok, so you have a navigational system on board. Now what? The next step is to understand what everything means. If you are using a nautical chart, you need to take the time to familiarize yourself with proper marine terminology. Nautical charts will let you know about water depths and potential hazards. Different colors indicate changes in depth. The area where you’re boating will determine whether darker color means deeper water or shallow water. In some cases, shallow water can look darker due to underwater grass. Yet, in other areas, darker colored water indicates deeper water. Understanding the differences in your charts and the areas where you’re boating can help you avoid a boating accident
- Account for nature. Nautical charts and navigational systems can only help you to a certain extent. When Mother Nature makes a move, there are certain things that even the most innovative charting equipment can’t predict. To prevent a boat from capsizing and sinking, it’s important to understand and be aware of changing sand bars and tides – changes that won’t necessarily reflect on your navigational systems.
- Perform regular inspections of your boat. If your boat has been in storage or if you’re using it for the first time after a long time of disuse, it’s a good idea to inspect your boat for damage or leaks. Take a look at the cooling system for loose or split hoses and make sure to perform a thorough inspection of all equipment and machinery each time you take your vessel out to sea. When in doubt as to whether your vessel needs repairs, have it inspected by a professional.
Not all capsizing accidents are 100% preventable, but by following these basic safety tips and by ensuring that a skilled, experienced, and responsible boater is manning the helm, your chances of undergoing a boating accident that results in the sinking of your vessel are largely decreased. In the event that you do experience an emergency, it’s important to make sure that everyone is wearing a life jacket and that you make a prompt distress call.